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#17: Awakening, Part 1

Jane Temble was, by now, sure that she was going crazy. Searching her brain for half-remembered studies, the keen observer of the human mind was certain that someone at some point would have researched the effects of removing access to one of life's most important institutions: the water closet.

It might have been her travel upon rough seas, it could well be the vestiges of the drug used to subdue her, but at any rate there was a more driving impulse at present for Jane than the desire to empty the contents of her stomach in the most decorous manner possible. The thought was so pressing that Ms. Temble nearly missed the first Englishman she came across.

The man had to repeat his question to her: “Are you alright? Are you lost, Missus?”

Turning foggy head to the speaker, Jane tried to determine which of the three khaki-clad men had addressed her in clear, crisp English. She looked to the middle one and was only mildly surprised when her drug-addled eyes resolved the image into one man. One handsome, worried-looking man. Endeavoring to shake her head “no” in answer to his first query, Ms. Temble had the uncomfortable sensation of watching down become up. In the moment between lucidity and full swoon, she was struck by one bizarre thought: “I don't much like his moustaches.”

* * *

Vincent wondered if Giles was testing him, drinking Vincent's alcohol in his repeated and increasingly frequent visits in order to force him out into the world at last. But, no, his supply was copious. Newberry'd have to find another way to entice him out of doors.

Smiling over his own drink as he pondered such scenarios, Vince patiently waited for Giles to finally arrive at his point. Oh, he enjoyed the news from MDOPFGIASA, to be sure, but Newberry was a detective first, a teller of tales second. To give one detail was to give all details.

He stifled a yawn.

“ . . . and so I was wondering if you—or any associates of yours—might know anything about Arabic cryptography systems,” Giles finally concluded his heretofore boring updates about teakettles, hapless assistants, and missing agents.

Vince quashed the urge to complain that he was not Giles' personal diary, instead perking up at the word “cryptography.”

“I might,” he admitted, reaching out to request that he might see the telegram which had prompted such an odd query. Taking it from Giles, Vince poured over the silent text murmuring, “I am glad to hear that your Ms. Temble is alive and well.”

AM WELL. UNHARMED BUT AFAR. ALERT ON THE GAS LIGHTING. LOOK INTO ARABIC CRYPTOGRAPHY.

“Gas light?” he queried, raising an eyebrow.

Giles waved a dismissive hand. “Just some odd theory Jane had been pushing before she disappeared. Until it transpired that the woman had gone missing, we assumed that her absence at the Yard was due our dismissal of her idea.”

“Hmph.” Vince thought a moment before prompting, “And her theory was-?”

“Bogus. Crackpot. Crazy.” Giles downed his drink, “Woman was acting paranoid, lurking behind curtained windows, keeping strange hours, pursuing phantom leads on her own. It was the kind of theory you'd-” He bit off the words too late.

“The kind of theory I'd . . . ? Enjoy? Make up? Believe?” Vincent's casual completions of Giles' aborted sentence came soft, quiet in their accusal.

“I'm sorry, Vince. It's just—just been a really rough week for me,” Giles sighed,

“Everyone's out of sorts. Even me.”

“Hmph.” Vince repeated his mono-syllabic expression of thought. “Well, I will look into the Arabic cryptography.”

“Thank you.” Giles appeared relieved, so much so that he looked into his now empty glass, curious as to when he'd emptied it. Business done, he wondered when it might be polite to leave. His host gave him his answer by longingly eyeing the sagging shelf full of books on the wall.

Giles rose to leave. “Oh, and if that crazy teakettle of Gertrude's works out, I'll see about ordering you one—as thanks for your help. Should fit right in here with your, er, collection.” He gestured to Vince's endless rows of mechanical knickknacks.

“Marvellous or not . . . Your kettle might discover its limits were it to apply its talents to my tastes. As you know, I'm too particular to hold a housekeeper—inept or otherwise,” Vince accepted Giles' offer with a shrug and a smile, showing him to the door, “Until next time.”